Making a case for nuclear energy

A clean, abundant and eco-friendly energy source

Ebenezer Idowu, Jr., Staff Writer

Climate change. Almost everyone living in this country has heard of it, and most agree it is a big issue primarily caused by the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels. It would seem reasonable, then, to look for other ways to meet the growing demand for energy.
Most people instinctively turn to renewable energy as the solution, specifically solar and wind, but the truth is that solar and wind energy alone cannot replace fossil fuels. They are unreliable; they only work when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. Plus, they provide a surprisingly small energy output.
If society wants to get serious about renovating our current energy grid to be more eco-friendly, we must find multiple energy sources that, when combined, supply just as much energy as fossil fuels. And the most promising candidate is nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy is clean, abundant and inexpensive, yet many are opposed to it. I will debunk a few myths about nuclear energy to hopefully show that it might not be as dangerous as we make it out to be.

Myth #1: Nuclear energy is unsafe.
While there are risks to nuclear energy, there are also many measures taken to minimize the risk. Nuclear plants undergo strict safety guidelines, including remote handling of equipment, “radiation protection and contamination control procedures” and procedures governing waste disposal. According to Hanna Ritchie, nuclear energy is much safer than fossil fuels, the primary source of energy in the U.S. It causes 99.9% fewer deaths than brown coal, 99.7% fewer than oil and 97.6% fewer than gas.
People who would like to label nuclear energy as dangerous generally refer to two tragic accidents: Chernobyl and Fukushima. However, some context is needed to truly understand these incidents. Chernobyl was a power plant built by the Soviet Union. It badly lacked safety measures, leaving it more vulnerable to an accident. Fukushima, an accident in a Japanese power plant, was partly caused by a nearby tsunami.
While these events truly were tragic, they do not warrant banning nuclear energy. Fossil fuels kill far more people every single year. Rather, such insight should lead to ever more stringent safety regulations, something nuclear plants already implement.

Myth #2: Nuclear energy pollutes the environment.
Nuclear energy involves the splitting of atoms to produce energy. This causes virtually no environmental pollution, making it a “zero-emissions clean energy source.” Nuclear energy produces no carbon emissions, making it a wonderful alternative to coal, oil and natural gas, which pump massive amounts of pollutants into the air.
In fact, it is almost equal to solar and wind energy in this respect. (Again, mind the “zero-emissions” part). And to bust another myth: water vapor, not smoke, is pumped into the air from a nuclear power plant.

Myth #3: Nuclear energy produces toxic waste which cannot be safely disposed of.
While the process of splitting atoms does produce a form of waste, various methods exist to manage this waste. One is nuclear recycling. Much of the nuclear waste can be used as fuel for another reactor, reducing the amount that will be disposed of. Moreover, nuclear waste doesn’t take up vast amounts of space.
The Argonne National Laboratory asserts that “all of the used nuclear fuel generated in every nuclear plant in the past 50 years would fill a football field to a depth of less than 10 yards,” a testimony to the massive amount of nuclear waste storage space available.
Clearly, there are solutions to nuclear energy waste, and future research combined with technological advances may reveal more solutions.
I hope you now see the unharnessed potential in nuclear energy. I am not saying we should abandon all other fossil fuel alternatives and rely primarily on nuclear energy.
I am simply submitting that it is an option we should consider. Nuclear energy is clean. Nuclear energy is abundant. Nuclear energy is safe. There might be risks, but there are also ways to mitigate the risk.
Many countries use nuclear energy, and some such as France and Sweden depend on it as their primary energy source. Therefore, any serious fossil fuel replacement plan (that is, any plan that has the potential to remove the need for fossil fuels) should include nuclear energy.